Repurposing of Tranilast for Potential Neuropathic Pain Treatment by Inhibition of Sepiapterin Reductase in the BH4 Pathway

Benjamin J. R. Moore, Barira Islam, Sean Ward, Olivia Jackson, Rebecca Armitage, Jack Blackburn, Shozeb Haider, Patrick C. Mchugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) is a cofactor in the production of various signaling molecules including nitric oxide, dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. BH4 levels are critical for processes associated with cardiovascular function, inflammation, mood, pain, and neurotransmission. Increasing pieces of evidence suggest that BH4 is upregulated in chronic pain. Sepiapterin reductase (SPR) catalyzes both the reversible reduction of sepiapterin to dihydrobiopterin (BH2) and 6-pyruvoyl- tetrahydrobiopterin to BH4 within the BH4 pathway. Therefore, inhibition of SPR by small molecules can be used to control BH4 production and ultimately alleviate chronic pain. Here, we have used various in silico and in vitro experiments to show that tranilast, licensed for use in bronchial asthma, can inhibit sepiapterin reduction by SPR. Docking and molecular dynamics simulations suggest that tranilast can bind to human SPR (hSPR) at the same site as sepiapterin including S157, one of the catalytic triad residues of hSPR. Colorimetric assays revealed that tranilast was nearly twice as potent as the known hSPR inhibitor, N-acetyl serotonin. Tranilast was able to inhibit hSPR activity both intracellularly and extracellularly in live cells. Triple quad mass spectrophotometry of cell lysates showed a proportional decrease of BH4 in cells treated with tranilast. Our results suggest that tranilast can act as a potent hSPR inhibitor and therefore is a valid candidate for drug repurposing in the treatment of chronic pain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11960-11972
Number of pages13
JournalACS Omega
Issue number7
Early online date10 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2019


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